Public sector IT bosses and suppliers must begin to think big about the future of government technology now if long-term goals are to be met, according to TechUK.
The industry trade body held its Public Services 2030 conference this week, at which government officials and public sector suppliers gathered to discuss the long-term future of its digital strategy.
The group holds regular procurement conferences and workshops about current issues, which it insists remain important, but said it wanted to focus on the long-term future too.
With just two general elections between now and 2030, TechUK's associate director for public sector Naureen Khan said that setting out ambitions and plans now is essential.
"There's a real need to evangelise on the technology of the future to get the civil service excited about the art of the possible," she told CRN. "We need to show them not to get bogged down by today with procurement and so on.
"It's hugely important for all of us involved to think about what is it we're trying to achieve. That's how better public services are done and technology has a huge role in that. The main reason is that technology is moving on at a phenomenal pace so it's important to think about. And that's where you get the ambition to be bold."
Khan added that one of the aims for 2030 is for government to be able to deliver an integrated service to citizens which they could log into from a single profile and access every service they need, with digital notification sent to remind people about passport renewals and GP appointments, for example.
"We were helping people understand that this is what it could look like," she added.
One of the biggest barriers to improving digital technology in government – and across the industry – is the lack of trained professionals able to work with new and emerging technology. But in the last few years, a range of new projects, such as schools outreach programmes and coding clubs, have popped up.
This, Khan said, will help the 2030 vision become a reality.
"One of the things we called for is getting the right people with the right skills – it is something we can do now," she said. "We've seen great progress in the last five years and we need to accelerate that. We should be ambitious – by 2030 we might not get there, but we shouldn't be far off it. We need the civil service to have the right digital skills.
"I think those initiatives that we are seeing now from schools, and those being rolled out nationally, should make a huge difference [by 2030]."
TechMarketView public sector research director Georgina O'Toole said skills was a hot topic at the event, along with other issues.
"The stumbling blocks to change that most mentioned were: skills and capability, in digital and commercial; culture – lack of ambition and innovative thinking; and legacy technology and contracts, although this appeared to be the elephant in the room that most were reluctant to mention," she said.
"It is clear that GDS [Government Digital Service] is held in high regard for what it has achieved already."
But O'Toole added that transformative change can be difficult because of the very nature of government.
"Unfortunately, it is the short-termism of politics driven by those general elections that makes politicians reluctant to support radical change," she said. "In the words of one panellist, 'the flattening of government silos is never going to be a vote winner'."
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